Embattled US retailer JC Penney, which has been struggling from market share losses and last month’s dismissal of its CEO, was forced to scramble on social media channels to deny that its billboard photo advertising a tea kettle was styled to look like Adolf Hitler, FastCompany reported.
A Reddit blogger spotted the tea kettle as führer image on a billboard in Culver City, California, and a viral photo quickly reached major press outlets, including the UK Telegraph, which mocked up a side-by-side image of the kettle and it’s alleged inspiration (top left).
Although JC Penney denied the allegations, their public relations team bungled with attempts to convince bloggers, including actress Mia Farrow, that had they wanted to model anything with the kettle, it would have been something more harmless, like a snowman, rather than the author of Mein Kampf.
“Certainly unintended. If we designed it to look like something, we would have gone with a snowman or something fun,” the retailer’s communications team wrote to Mia Farrow via Twitter.
The kerfuffle shows how difficult a viral mud slinging campaign can be for even the largest companies to defend themselves from in an internet-focused world.